“You don’t know how much you mean to me,” says Lena Dunham as she opens her arms to embrace Samantha Bee.
For the Girls creator and many more, Bee’s weekly late-night TBS program Full Frontal has become, in the Trump era, a tragicomic feminist primal scream. So Dunham, herself a lightning rod and millennial icon — and surrogate for Hillary Clinton during the 2016 campaign — has come to The Hollywood Reporter offices in Manhattan to interview Bee in advance of Bee’s Not the White House Correspondents’ Dinner special…
DUNHAM You go on camera every week and stick it to the man harder than anybody else. You act as if you’re explaining something to your blind, deaf and dumb grandfather at Thanksgiving. Are you ever scared? And how did you settle on the Samantha Bee persona, which is, “I’m here to explain this to you f—ing idiots, and if you don’t wrap your brain around it, I’m going to explain it again in a different way.”
BEE Well, I and the showrunner, Jo [Miller], we are both women of a certain age. I’m 47. She’s 50. And the only thing that we truly knew that we wanted to do was really go for it. We just knew that it was a very rare opportunity. And we thought, “Even if we only have six episodes, let’s make them the most kick-ass six episodes of television that we could possibly make. Let’s make the show that we would want to see, and only cater to our own interests and kick the door in with it.” We always knew that we wanted it to be really visceral and so there wasn’t too much structure to figuring out how the show would physically look other than I didn’t want to go behind a desk. It really flowed naturally from a very instinctive place, and it continues to do that. We were nervous at first, but we were like, “Oh, f— it, we’re too old to worry. If it gets canceled, we’ll say ‘c—’ on television, and we’ll go be farmers.”
DUNHAM Do you think the fact that you had spent so much time in the business, that you had done The Daily Show, gave you a certain kind of DGAF [don’t give a f—] attitude?
BEE It absolutely did, because I just know that there’s another world out there for me that’s equally satisfying. There’s something else that I could do that would be fine. And it was just freedom for us. [TBS] actually really trusted us; no one really ever trusted us before. Not to that extent, that’s for sure. So it was just not having too many f—s left to give is where it came from.
DUNHAM It happened right around the time that there was this massive conversation about the fact that the only woman talk show host was Kocktails With Khloe on E! How heavily did you feel the weight of that superhero cape?
BEE I didn’t feel it at all. And I actually still don’t. I just completely separated myself from all that. I have to in order to be able to live life. People will put a yoke on you whether you like it or not. You really have to be very strict about your vision. You can’t make a show for other people. You cannot crowdsource your show.
DUNHAM You have been a frontline voice against Donald Trump from the beginning. And you’re also a mom and a person who wants to enjoy your life. How much do you feel that raging negativity that comes at a person, especially a woman, who decides to say “f— you” to a large entity like the American government?
BEE I definitely think about it. I’m definitely careful. It was such a long path to this place, and it was so gradual. With each new thing, the number of people who had heard of the show expanded. So it did happen slowly over time. When I really felt a geyser of hatred was the day after the election — actually, the night of the election. I checked my Twitter mentions, and it was one of the last times I’ve checked it. I just went off. I just went dark.
Read the full interview at Hollywood Reporter.